Wahconah football rallies late to top Putnam, remain undefeated
DALTON — The first 36 minutes of Friday night's football game at Wahconah aren't worth mentioning outside of coach Gary Campbell's film room on Monday.
The final 12 — and more specifically those waning three minutes of a nail-biter against Putnam — are what make the Warriors an unbeaten program through half of a Western Massachusetts football season.
Wahconah overcame a brutally ugly game and a late fourth-quarter deficit to shake the Beavers and grab a 19-12 victory in front of the home crowd.
"Sorry you had to witness this," Campbell apologized to reporters after a game that featured nine turnovers — including his side fumbling the ball away four times. "That was an ugly football game. Sometimes with younger teams, they just don't believe in themselves quite as much as we believe in them.
"I think they're great under pressure, clearly. But I just wish we could do things more fundamentally sound."
One of the Warriors' fumbles wound up in the hands of Putnam's Jacob Boyd, who sprinted 58 yards to the Warriors' end zone just two plays after the Beavers had tied the game at six a piece.
Putnam took a 12-6 lead with 10 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the game.
"It was a dogfight. I felt like they had the momentum the whole game," said senior Tom O'Connor. "It's really easy to get down on yourselves during those situations, and I think we did a good job staying up and thinking about the next play."
It was gut-check time for sophomore quarterback Ryan Scott and the Warriors, who had to finish with all-everything stud Shea McIlquham refusing a trip to the hospital, cheering from the sidelines with his right arm in a sling.
"It's a great win. Took a lot of heart to fight back and get it," said Scott. "Shea was a huge loss, he's one of the best players out here. We were trying to go win one for him."
Things got even more dire when the Warriors turned it over on downs at the Putnam 26 with 7:15 left.
But as it has done over Wahconah's last three games — all wins by a combined 15 points — the defense held up. Putnam punted back to Wahconah with less than five minutes on the clock.
In need of a leader to rally around with McIlquham unable to go, senior Gabe Davis stepped up.
Davis' first two catches of the season both went for first downs, as the Warriors moved from their own 33-yard line to the Putnam 1. From there, senior Ian Graham plunged in on second-and-goal with 2:40 to go, tying the game at 12-12.
"Gabe made a couple awesome catches. He's plain and simple toughness, and he brings a swagger to him," said Campbell. "He's one of those kids that kids gravitate to."
Davis' job wasn't done, though. He squared up with everything on the line and sent the extra point through the uprights for a one-point lead.
Wahconah finished things out in style, with O'Connor running down a deep interception on the second play of Putnam's ensuing drive. That set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Scott to Luke Hescock that all-but iced the game with 43 seconds left.
"It took everything," said Davis. "We needed to fight as a team. Started slow, turned it over, but we needed to play Wahconah football to finish it.
"I lost hope for a second there, but then I remembered, we're Wahconah, we can do this. It's a brotherhood and we play together until the last minute."
Putnam 0 0 0 12 — 12
Wahconah 0 6 0 13 — 19
W — Griffen Salvini 5-yard pass from Ryan Scott (pass fail), 5:10.
P — Alec Rodriguez 10-yard pass from Dakota Scranton (pass fail), 11:43.
P — Jacob Boyd 58-yard fumble return (pass fail), 10:45.
W — Ian Graham 1-yard run (Gabe Davis kick), 2:40.
W — Luke Hescock 23-yard pass from Scott (kick miss), 0:43.
First Downs 7 9
Rushes-Yards 23-41 32-92
Comp-Att-Int 9-20-2 7-12-1
Passing Yards 58 67
Total Yards 99 159
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 4-5
Turnovers 4 6
Penalties-Yards 6-75 4-25
RUSHING — P: Nathaniel Martinez 15-31, Kevon Crittendon 6-6, William Day 1-2, Alec Rodriguez 1-2; W: Zach Archambault 14-54, Ian Graham 13-43, Ryan Scott 1-0, Jonah Smith 1-(-5), Shea McIlquham 1-0, Jon Render 1-0.
PASSING — P: Dakota Scranton 9-19-2, 58, Crittendon 0-1-0; W: Ryan Scott 7-12-1 67
RECEIVING — P: Rodriguez 3-35, Martinez 1-20, Leonard Naylor 1-5, Devonte Russell 1-(-5); W: Gabe Davis 2-30, Render 2-14, Tom O'Connor 1-23, Luke Hescock 1-23.
Mike Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.